We don’t have to follow the herd. Sure of their classical taste and comfortable in their traditionalist skins, the home of Francesca and Alessandro is an old-world haven.
We’re Europeans! Keep your shoes on,” exclaims Francesca Caldana Massone as I offer to take them off, then immediately compliments me on the style of my sandals. That’s so gratifying, coming from an Italian. And when the espresso arrives, as it very soon does, it’s just as good as I thought it would be.
The Work Front
Francesca’s job brought the family here. After reading for her PhD at Cambridge University, she began working for Goldman Sachs and then a hedge fund in London, which is where she met Alessandro. She’s an economist in the field of FX (foreign exchange) modelling, essentially trying to predict how markets will move. Last April, Francesca was offered the opportunity to move to Singapore and did not hesitate to say “arrivederci” to London.
Alessandro followed his wife and found a wealth-management job with EFG Bank. “It was no problem,” he says, but admits it might be a different story in today’s job market. “The world has changed completely since the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the demise of the certainty that some banks were simply too big to fail.
“That said, Singapore is the right place to be as we evolve into a new world with a different way of doing things. In London, the financial sector has been hit very hard. It’s nothing like as bad here, and both of us are lucky to have solid employers. In addition, the government is doing the right things.”
Maria Giulia and Costanza (3½) are identical twins, and “a full-time job” according to their mother. That’s why she employs two domestic helpers, both Filipinas: Margie is in charge of looking after the children and preparing healthy meals, while Emelita is in charge of the house. “We both work long hours, and it would have been impossible for just one helper to cope,” she says.
As if on cue, the tots arrive home from a jaunt to the Botanic Gardens with Margie. Dressed in matching pink and blue frocks, with Botticelli angel faces and blonde curls, they’re so cute that I’m not surprised to hear they’re often stopped on Orchard Road by Asian tourists who want to have their photographs taken with the twins.
“Maybe Margie should charge them $5 per photograph to help with the expenses,” jokes Francesca.
The twins are at Tanglin Trust School, which they “absolutely love ”. “The level of education is excellent, and there’s a lot of space for them to run around. They spend much of their time outdoors, which is wonderful, and they have so many friends.”
The Home Front
Having two active children is partly why the Caldana Massones wanted a bigger, older apartment with plenty of space to play – that, and to accommodate all the furniture they brought with them. Bel Air condo on leafy Orchard Boulevard meets both needs.
“Its architecture reminds me of a famous Milanese architect,” says Francesca, “and I like its open aspect, the surrounding greenery, and being so close to Orchard Road.”
Though their furniture was bought to suit the typically older houses of their native Europe, it looks perfectly at home in the large rooms with their cream walls and pale marble or warm wooden floors.
“In London, the people we knew were getting rid of their older stuff and buying modern furniture,” Alessandro remarks. “We believe that a home should be part of you and look lived in, not look like a showroom. But we were the exception.
As they had brought so much with them, they did not need much, except for bookshelves and cupboard space. “I started to look for classical pieces that would complement what we had,” says Francesca, “and found two amazing items at Past Perfect Collection for the dining room.” The ebony detailing on the 19th-century Dutch colonial satinwood cupboard from Malabar in South India incorporates a tulip motif, and she knows it will look gorgeous in whatever European home they may find themselves in the future.
It complements the stunning Indian rosewood dining table, also from Past Perfect, which can be extended to seat fourteen comfortably and is teamed with the Georgian mahogany chairs they already had. An unusual fifth leg in the middle of the table ensures stability, and castors make it easy to move.
At Asiatique Collection in Dempsey, they found an elegant Chinese desk for their bedroom, and an imposing bookcase that houses a rich collection of volumes and dominates the living room.
When Francesca points out an oil painting of the gracious family home in Piedmont, Italy, parts of which date back to the fourteenth century, I can see why she would stick to antiques. The couple commissioned the work from James Hart Dyke, the official artist of Britain’s Prince Charles. Several more of his works hang in the living room, including one of a castle in Yorkshire, two scenes of Kathmandu, and Highgrove, the home of the Prince of Wales.
On the Side
On the table is a bottle of red wine with special significance – it’s their own wine, and comes from the Francesca’s family wine estate in Piedmont, the Marchesi Incisa Della Rocchetta. They have just started importing it into Singapore, together with a few other high-end labels from Piedmont, Francesca explains, and you can buy it at Wine Exquisites
Out and About
For an authentic family-run Italian trattoria that’s like eating at home, Alessandro recommends Ristorante da Valentino, off Bukit Timah Road. “It’s very different from any other Italian we’ve tried here,” he adds, “and though it’s not trendy, it’s becoming popular and busy.” For a special ice cream treat, they take the twins to Gelato Sole at United Square.
The couple have no plan to move away from Singapore for the foreseeable future. “We love it too much to imagine wanting to leave, and for now, this condo is the right place for us and our girls to be, especially while they are so young. But we have fallen in love with the big, black-and-white colonial bungalows. Some time in the future we may just have one of our own, who knows?”
Block 14-5 Dempsey Road
+65 6471 3146
United Square B1-K4
Past Perfect Collection
480 River Valley Road
+65 6737 3078
Tanglin Trust School
95 Portsdown Road
+65 6778 0771
The Tanglin Club
5 Stevens Road
+65 6622 0555
Ristorante da Valentino
11 Jalan Bingka
+65 6462 0555
135 Middle Road
+65 6883 1021
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